Chelsea entered the tricky encounter away at Tottenham on the back of a shock defeat to Burnley at Stamford Bridge so it was paramount that the team avoided another loss. It was not going to be easy against last seasons’ runners-up who will be playing at Wembley for the 2017-18 campaign due to the construction of New White Hart Lane. Tottenham have a poor record at the National Stadium – winning 2 times in 10 previous visits so would want to put a couple Wembley demons to bed at the earliest opportunity.
The Chelsea starting eleven looked more familiar with Moses returning to the right-wing back position. The Nigerian missed the Burnley fixture due to suspension. It was refreshing having a natural wing back since wing-backs are crucial for providing balance. Unorthodox wing-backs do not have the same effect – Azpilicueta struggled last week deputising for Moses and last season, the team struggled when Moses and/or Alonso was absent. Andreas Christensen and most notably Tiemoue Bakayoko were amongst the names in the starting eleven, replacing club captain Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas who were both suspended following red cards against Burnley.
Tottenham (4-3-2-1): Lloris ©; Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Wanyama, Dembele; Alli, Eriksen; Kane.
Subs: Vorm (GK), Heung-Min Son, Janssen, Sissoko, Wimmer, Winks, Walker-Peters
Chelsea (3-5-1-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta ©, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, David Luiz Bakayoko, Alonso; Willian; Morata.
Subs: Caballero (GK), Pedro, Kenedy, Musonda, Batshuayi, Tomori, Scott.
Chelsea was quicker out of the blocks and should’ve taken an early advantage after 5 minutes. Azpilicueta produced a delightful cross for Alvaro Morata who headed wide after peeling away from Vertonghen and Alderweireld. It looked easier to score than miss and was a miss that produced an automatic comparison between Alvaro and exile Diego Costa on social media. Chelsea started off the brighter but Tottenham, without threatening too much, started to exert dominance on the ball.
A cagey affair then came to life, just after the 20-minute mark where Dele Alli fouled David Luiz. Chelsea free kick – approximately 25-30 yards from the Tottenham goal. Marcos Alonso stepped up and curled it precisely past the despairing Hugo Lloris. It was the perfect reward for the Champions who started the first half superbly and looked much more composed than in their previous fixture against Burnley. 21-year-old Andreas Christensen looked very solid on debut during the opening stages.
Alonso’s pin-point accuracy produced a Tottenham reaction with Harry Kane producing a save from Thibaut Courtois. Courtois actually parried Kane’s original shot but recovered well without causing danger in the Chelsea six-yard box. Robust challenges flew in: Rudiger and Luiz receiving yellow-cards and Tottenham’s Eric Dier being rather fortunate that he did not receive a red card for his challenge on David Luiz. Had that being a Chelsea player then the consequences may have been different. If Chelsea exerted a degree of control for the first 20 minutes, then, Tottenham ended the half in the ascendency. Eriksen’s teasing ball caused panic in the six-yard box with Courtois stranded and Kane was very unfortunate not to level the scores. His rasping drive hit the post, three minutes before half-time. Somehow, Chelsea survived and the Champions went into the break a goal ahead.
Half time: Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea (Alonso 24’).
The second half began in similar fashion to how the first half ended: Tottenham in the ascendency with Chelsea dropping deeper and deeper. Alvaro Morata up front was not having the best game and was isolated due to Chelsea’s defensive shape. Also, similar to the first half, there were a number of questionable fouls – something of which will ignite the consistency debate concerning referees. This time, Jan Vertonghen received a yellow card for a late foul on Victor Moses. Tottenham was in complete control and Chelsea received precious, little opportunity to counter attack. Any possible counter-attack was stalled by Willian when the team tried to alleviate any Tottenham pressure.
Heung-Min Son replaced Eric Dier on the hour mark and it seemed inevitable that Tottenham would score since it looked like the bus was parked. That said, Courtois looked relatively untroubled – watching as Wanyama skied a potential opportunity into Row Z. In the second half, a Chelsea attack was rare but Willian did hit the post 15 minutes before full time after being played in by Alvaro Morata. Morata did not have much luck in front of goal this afternoon but showed a fantastic work ethic which cannot be understated.
Willian was a figure of growing frustration amongst many Chelsea fans, and, Alvaro Morata who should’ve scored early on were replaced by Pedro – returning from an ankle injury and Belgian Michy Batshuayi. It wasn’t the perfect cameo for Batshuayi who failed to clear Eriksen teasing free-kick eight minutes before the end. Instead, the Belgian striker headed past a helpless Thibaut Courtois.
Batshuayi’s own goal handed all the momentum to Tottenham: a pity considering the resolute and industrial performance of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. It certainly looked that Tottenham would press on for the winner, further compounding Chelsea’s woes in the process. However, the opposite occurred. Chelsea demonstrated an immense display of character in overcoming the adversity of Batshuayi’s own-goal. Chelsea pushed forward, with Kante shrugging off Harry Kane, sending him into a spin as the English striker tried to impede upon the industrial Frenchman. Kante played in Pedro who then played in goal scorer Marcos Alonso. Somehow, Alonso managed to squeeze the ball in past Hugo Lloris at his narrow post – pandemonium amongst the 3,000 Chelsea fans in the corner at Wembley and on the Chelsea bench. Antonio Conte was celebrating wildly like he was many times last season. Contrast that with the Spurs fans who headed for the exits.
Chelsea managed to stave off any Tottenham late fightback as Vincent Janssen entered the fray in the hope of stealing a point but thankfully from a Chelsea perspective, a late rally never materialised. Chelsea held on for a vital win against a direct competitor for the Premier League. Chelsea was resilient and dogged against a Tottenham side who wanted to put forward a statement of intent by ending their Wembley hoodoo against the Champions. That didn’t materialise in what was a mature display by Conte’s men. Chelsea’s season is now up and running following the hiccup against Burnley and Spurs have still only won at the ‘new’ Wembley twice from 11 appearances.
Full Time: Tottenham 1-2 Chelsea (Batshuayi O.G. 82; Alonso 24’, 88’).